Chris Seidman is a dear friend, a great pastor and an excellent communicator. He also has a heart as big as Texas!
No surprise then after the controversial news broke about the recent actions of the Farmers Branch City Council that Chris sprung into action.
You recall that the council voted a week ago to make it against the law for apartment owners to lease their property to undocumented residents of the town, to allow local police officiers to receive training in enforcing immigration laws and to declare English the official language of the community (see this blog on Thursday, November 16, 2006, "Let's hear it for Farmers Branch!").
Chris called his friend and fellow minister, Vincent Gonzales who leads the North Dallas Family Church and resides in Farmers Branch. Gonzales also authored Beyond the Border: How The Church Must Respond to Immigration Reform.
The two friends organized and co-hosted a joint worship service that included members of their respective churches and others from the community. The bi-lingual service focused on worship, prayer and reconciliation.
These two leaders directed their congregants to face the community's division along socioeconomic and racial lines. They also attempted to raise consciousness about the the plight of the poor among the Hispanic population in Farmers Branch and our entire area.
Chris summed the evening up in a very wise way in an email to me that concluded, "Again, only one evening, but a good step. And I’ve seen things happen with a mustard seed before."
I am grateful for the decisive and determined action of these two fine Christian leaders.
According to The Dallas Morning News yesterday ("Churches aim to ease tension in Farmers Branch--Congregations unite for bilingual services"), the service was the first of a number of bi-lingual gatherings planned by the Farmers Branch Church of Christ, Seidman's church.
"There's tension in the community, but whenever there's tension ... there's an opportunity for God to work," Mr. Gonzales said.
Four of the city council members attend the Farmers Branch Church of Christ, including Tim O'Hare, who brought national attention to the town by suggesting the measures in the first place.
According to the news report, Farmers Branch is today home to the newest chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
"A LULAC chapter hadn't been created before in this area, because people sometimes think they don't need it, but then after things happen, they realize they need support," said Héctor Flores, former LULAC national president. One of the new chapter's tasks will be to fight the ordinances.
At some point I hope the joint worship of the churches involved will turn to action that will include pressing the U. S. Congress to act reasonably to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a guest worker program, serious and high-level negotiations with the new Mexican governmnet and livable wage standards that will begin to actually protect all workers from unfair exploitation in our increasingly one world economy.
My faith tells me the answer is not to ban people or drive them away.
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